$1 Million Grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute Recognizes Bryn Mawr as a Top Producer of Scientists

Posted May 31st, 2012 at 2:07 pm.

hhmiBryn Mawr College has received a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to help the College build on its already-impressive history of preparing young women to become leaders in science research and medicine.

Bryn Mawr’s grant is one of 11 Capstone Awards made to longtime recipients of HHMI funding.

“These schools, collectively among the best in the country at producing graduates who go on to science careers, will assess which elements of their various approaches to science education have been successful and why,” reads the HHMI press release announcing the grants.

“There is an enormous trove of know-how and wisdom at these schools, and we would like to see how that information can be shared more broadly,” says David J. Asai, director of HHMI’s precollege and undergraduate program. “We are looking forward to seeing how the Capstone awardees can provide leadership to some of the other grantees who are new to HHMI, as well as to advise HHMI about our efforts in undergraduate science education.”

Bryn Mawr’s grant will fund several efforts:

  • Enhancing the biology curriculum and research opportunities by funding a tenure-track faculty position for someone with expertise in genomics and bioinformatics, who uses computational methods as an integrated part of his/her research program.
  • Strengthening the College’s infrastructure for advancing quantitative work in the sciences by providing support for Bryn Mawr’s new Quantitative Center; creating a state-of-the-art multiprocessing computer facility to support computationally-intensive teaching and research activities; and funding internal development grants for science faculty and off-campus summer internships for undergraduates.
  • Incorporating competencies recently established by an expert committee convened by the HHMI and the Association of American Medical Colleges as essential for success in medical school into introductory courses in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as an intermediate course in biochemistry.
  • Support the establishment of Bryn Mawr’s STEM Posse, in partnership with the Posse Foundation.

“Over the past decade, we have witnessed the growing importance of quantitative and computational approaches across the sciences.  The ability to apply quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world, including integration of data, modeling, computation, and analysis is essential for any graduate pursuing science or medicine,” says Bryn Mawr Biology Professor and HHMI Program Director Peter Brodfuehrer in explaining the grant’s focus.

“Indeed, the national scientific community recognizes that advances in all scientific fields in the 21st century will require that students be able to think from a quantitative perspective, integrating both computational and mathematical approaches into their work,” adds Brodfuehrer.

Last April, HHMI invited 215 schools to apply for the grant competition. Of those invited, 187 schools submitted 182 proposals (two proposals were for joint programs). After two rounds of peer review, HHMI convened a panel of 23 leading scientists to discuss and rank the 84 final proposals.

On the basis of the reviewers’ comments and the panel discussion, HHMI recommended 43 awards to 47 schools.

Bryn Mawr will provide $80,000 in additional funding for initiatives funded by the grant.

“This grant ties in perfectly to the College’s strategic initiatives,” says Provost Kim Cassidy. “The projects supported by this grant build on our existing strength in the sciences, and allow us to pursue new areas of excellence in innovative ways. On behalf of the College, I want to thank the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for their generous support and Professor Brodfuehrer as well as Assistant Professors Mike Sears and Greg Davis, who also worked on the grant, for their tireless efforts to advance Bryn Mawr and our students.”

Bryn Mawr Math, Science, and Technology at a Glance:

  • Bryn Mawr is ranked 12th among all U.S. colleges and universities in terms of the percentage of female graduates who go on to pursue doctorates in the STEM Fields.
  • Bryn Mawr undergraduates are six times more likely to major in chemistry than all college students nationwide; twelve times more likely to major in math; and 16 times more likely to major in physics.
  • Bryn Mawr’s math department just received the annual award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department.
  • Bryn Mawr’s computer science department is home to the Institute for Personal Robots in Education, a joint effort by Bryn Mawr and Georgia Tech sponsored by Microsoft Research.
  • Bryn Mawr students can earn a master’s degree in engineering in five years through a new partnership with the University of Pennsylvania,
  • In total, Bryn Mawr faculty are currently engaged in 21 NSF and five NIH funded research projects.

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